Dubai: Aryna Sabalenka and Garbine Muguruza avoided the succession of upsets as just three seeds remained at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships by the end of play on Wednesday, as second seed Karolina Pliskova slumped to a stunning 6-0, 6-2 third-round defeat at the hands of Jessica Pegula, and fifth seed and 2019 champion Belinda Bencic was beaten 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 by tournament wild card Anastasia Potapova.
Arab sporting icon Ons Jabeur failed to advance into the quarters as she fell 6-3, 6-3 to Jil Teichmann, but teenage sensation Coco Gauff made another step towards contesting the final on her 17th birthday by defeating qualifier Tereza Martincova 6-4, 6-2.
“Jil’s a great player,” said Jabeur. “It wasn’t my best game today. A lot of unforced errors. Obviously it wasn’t my day today and, as I’ve said, I haven’t felt great lately on the court and I wasn’t expecting much from this tournament and I was taking it day by day. It was kind of tough for me.”
Two French Open champions faced off in another third round clash, with 2016 winner Muguruza overcoming current title holder Iga Swiatek 6-0 6-4. In other matches, third seed Sabalenka eased past Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-2, 10th seed Elise Mertens beat Caroline Garcia 6-4, 6-2 and Barbora Krejcikova ended the run of Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-2.
Muguruza was particularly impressive against Swiatek, dominating her less experienced opponent in the first set and then holding off her opponent’s greater challenge in the second.
“I took my opportunities and I was efficient when I had to break her serve or stay with my own serve,” said Muguruza. “Just happy with the way I started. I was very focused, very looking forward to the match as well. Sometimes you start a little bit off, but today I felt good on the court.
“It got a little bit more tight and I felt she was playing better and I had to stay strong there and not get tense or nervous and try to stay calm to be able to close the set and not give her the chance to go to a third set.”
In the quarter-finals, Krejcikova plays Anastasia Potapova, 10th seed Mertens will face Pegula, third seed Sabalenka will attempt to stop ninth seed Muguruza reaching her third Dubai semi-final, and Gauff will tackle Teichmann.